Review: Leisure Suit Larry: Magnum Cum Laude (Microsoft Xbox)

Leisure Suit Larry: Magnum Cum Laude
Genre: Adventure
Platform: Xbox [PS2, PC]
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Developer: High Voltage
Release Date: 09-30-04

The Leisure Suit Larry series of games began in 1987 on the personal computer, the brain child of Al Lowe and one of the series of adventure games released by Sierra On-Line that made that company a darling of the adventure gaming set.

When Sierra was bought and subsequently gutted by Vivendi-Universal most people considered such classic adventure series as Space Quest, Police Quest, Kingâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Quest, Quest for Glory, and Leisure Suit Larry to be dead, never to return. The adventure genre was no longer considered profitable and with Sierra and Lucas Arts both exiting from the adventure gaming field it looked like 1996â┚¬â”žÂ¢s Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail would be the last proper Leisure Suit Larry game (Larryâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Casino came out in 1998 but was not really an adventure game).

However Vivendi-Universal saw something left in the franchise, which has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in its lifespan and elected to create a new Larry game, only without Larry Laffer as the protagonist and without Al Lowe at the helm. While many Larry fans were dismayed to learn of these developments and further downtrodden after V-U completely destroyed Sierra in anything but name only, there was still some hope that developer High Voltage could create a game that lived up to Leisure Suit Larry adventures past.



STORY:
Larry Lovage is Larry Lafferâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nephew. 25 yearâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s old and still a student at Walnut Log Community College (home of the flaming faâ┚¬Â¦flamesticks). He has a receding hairline, no fashion sense, no money, almost no self respect, and no prospect of getting the one thing that wants more than anything: hot sex with different beautiful women.

All is not lost though, as the TV reality dating show Swingles is on campus and is having an open try out to get their next swinging single to be featured on their show. Larry runs over to sign up but is met with laughter and told he is not what they are looking forâ┚¬Â¦ but if he can come back with proof that he has managed to get some â┚¬Å”luckyâ┚¬Â woman to find him interesting he can worm his way onto the show.

Girding his loins, checking his collar, and looking to his Uncle Larry for inspiration, Larry Lovage begins his quest to get some. Larry will face the obstacles security guards, the gay community, all manner of good taste, alcohol, and his own lack of any alluring qualities to anything remotely female in his questâ┚¬Â¦ just like his old Uncle Larry.

While not the greatest story ever told (that honor belongs to Jingle Cats) it is very much in the spirit of the classic Leisure Suit Larry games. 99% of the fun of this game is seeing how the story progresses, what sort of trouble Larry gets himself into, and the unbelievable things that come out of his mouth.

Story: 6.0


GRAPHICS:
Gone are the days of sprite based adventure games thanks to the proliferation of the polygon and Magnum Cum Laude is no exception to this now hard and fast rule. The problem is that the graphics used in Magnum Cum Laude are functional but not great.

Often times the characters seem stilted and wooden, not much life in them at all. Other times the female characters, those babes youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re supposed to want to bang, look pugfugly. They go from passable to the cousins at an incest family get together that even the web-footed boy wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t want to get to know in a biblical sense.

While the backgrounds and locations are not that bad, the character models just range too far in quality. Larry Lovage looks great as the kind of guy no one would want to call a friend and so do some of the more important non player characters but the some, like Barbara Jo and Morgan look like they were taken out back to have their faces used as heavy bags.

A plus is that the cinemas are done in the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s graphical engine, helping to keep the cinemaesque tone and not jarring the player out of the moment. This little touch helps to keep visual continuity, something that is overlooked by many developers who want to bring out slick looking graphics for the cut scenes then ignore the in game engine.

I do like some of the fine touches to the background, like Dildo (from Larry 7) being in the background in all his glory along with the myriad of parodies of products and pop culture but the not so good outweighs the somewhat good here. Considering what High Voltage had done with the Haunted Mansion and the Hunter series of games fans can not be blamed for hoping for a bit more in the graphics department.

Graphics: 4.5

SOUND:
From the very first time Larry Lovageâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s voice came through my speakers I knew I was in for an aural treat. The voice acting in Magnum Cum Laude is very good. While not the greatest voice acting in the world the characters personalities come through even though some of them are very clichÃÆ’©dâ┚¬Â¦ but thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the beauty of Leisure Suit Larry. The over the top parodies of old stereotypes and how they matched the voices to those stereotypes helps keep you grounded in the idea that the game is more a flight of fancy than a gospel.

From the initial walk through by Larry Laffer (a great little bone to throw us stalwart Larry fans) to hearing the mob bossâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s daughter saying: â┚¬Å”Gratzi you mother f*cking cocksuckerâ┚¬Â the lines are delivered with a tongue buried firmly in cheek.

Helping to keep the ode to 1980s college movies gone by is the soundtrack. Motley Crueâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s â┚¬Å”Girls, Girls, Girlsâ┚¬Â, Right Said Fredâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s â┚¬Å”Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m Too Sexyâ┚¬Â are just a few of the licensed songs that appear on the soundtrack. The music fits the attitude and tone of the game, fluffy pop songs that easily could find a home in any number of the cheesy 1980s skintastic college/high school romp movies of days gone by.

Sound: 7.0

CONTROLS:
Moving around the Walnut Log campus is easy but once you get into the atrocious mini-games the controls can become a problem. Have you ever thought about playing a game in oven mitts? I have actually played Thunder Force V in oven mitts and after dying terrible deaths almost right from the get go I feel I still had a better chance in that shooter than I did in some of the Magnum Cum Laude mini-games.

All told there are 10 mini-games that make up the entire Magnum Cum Laude game play experience. The mini-games range from a version of pong that is really Larry masturbating to a version of Tapper. While these mini-games are fine the first time you play them by the end of the game they become frustrating and unresponsive.

The conversation sperm obstacle avoidance and selection game gets to be a chore with the lack of precision controls and increasingly faster scrolling selectionsâ┚¬Â¦ but more on this a tad later. The other Simon like directional game that is used for dancing can be a hassle at first, when using the analog stick or the digital control pad, but after some practice you can actually consistently win this game. The problem comes from the slow response of the digital pad and the chance youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll make a slightly imprecise movement input with the analogue stick which can lead to having to do the mini-game over.

There are not that many real times you have to take precise control over anything, but when you do the controls are just not up to snuff, especially when you take into consideration other issues with the mini-games (game play balance specifically).

Controls: 4.0


BALANCE:
Leisure Suit Larry: Magnum Cum Laudeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s attempt at balancing simplistic mini-games with the expected increasing difficulty of later stages is poor at best. Instead of adding different and more challenging games High Voltage chose to either make some games frustrating and others laughably easy.

The previously mentioned conversation mini-game becomes a war of attrition, with you trying to get the best outcome of the worst possible situation because the precision controls required to avoid all the various pitfalls and negative success modifiers is simply too much during the latter stages of the game where faster scrolling and more obstacles are used instead of actually thinking of another dynamic. The Simon-like button pressing game for drinks and spanking become a chore because of just how fast the buttons will appear on the screen. At times I found myself going from one mistake to 4 in a second. Instead of making the system a bit more complex the developers thought it better just to speed things up for these two mini-games in order to have an illusion of true difficulty.

The Tapper inspired mini-game is the exact opposite as it never gets any harder. Even during the final times you have to go through the Tapper-like game an average gamer should be able to perfectly clear the board without even trying. The first person wet t-shirt contest game is downright awful in its simplicity, where you just point and shoot but have to use a clunky control set up with the dual analogue sticks that should work out when you think about the myriad of first person shooters that have had no trouble with similar set ups. Mind you even with the clunky interface and me half asleep I still scored perfects on both the wet t-shirt mini-games though my eyes promptly wished me dead for subjecting them to badly created video game breasts (though if you are a horny kid who has not gotten enough action from Fableâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s marriage schtick or Grand Theft Autoâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s hooker killing you will probably love the boobs).

One mini-game that stands out as very annoying is the so called posing mini-game, where you go to someone to get powered up with something (mime powers sans the gaping maw of a North American Brown Grizzly Bear, turning out women powers thanks to a pimp, or school spirit thanks to a bundle of flaming faâ┚¬Â¦ firesticks mascot uniform) but range from difficult to obscenely easy. The easier of this time of mini-game actually comes in the latter stages of the game, which can throw someone for a loop but more often than not just result in a sigh of relief.

These control and balance issues can be negated with using special tokens you find around the Magnum Cum Laude universe called â┚¬Å”Secret Tokensâ┚¬Â. You may use the â┚¬Å”Secret Tokensâ┚¬Â to simply â┚¬Å”Wimp Outâ┚¬Â and buy an automatic pass through any mini-game for a set amount of tokens that increase by one for each stage of the game you are at. The gripe I have about that is that those tokens are also used to unlock bonus items (art and the like) and seems to be a cheap way to solve problems inherent in the control scheme, glaring balance issues, and lacking game play.

One last thing: Tillyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s set of mini-games are by far the most unbalanced ones of the entire game. Every problem inherent to the system comes out in spades during her missions. Be wary gamers.

Balance: 3.0

REPLAY ABILITY
Just as prior adventure games before it, Magnum Cum Laude has very little replay value. You can gain more secret tokens for going through mini-games and getting a perfect score, complete a few more side quests, find more dialogue but after you beat the game that is it â┚¬” the song â┚¬Å”Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve Seen Everythingâ┚¬Â by the Trashcan Sinatras came to mind after the ending movie and credits were done.

Of course if someone has the urge for more badly made polygonal tits and ass then you can pop in Magnum Cum Laude and have a blast (just make sure you clean up after yourself).

Replay ability: 2.0

APPEAL
This game is definitely aimed for Leisure Suit Larry fans and fans of irreverent, low ball humor. Toilet jokes, sexual innuendo, stereotyping, sexual dysfunction, gambling, prostitution, strippers, dumb blonds, threesomes with sisters, a fraternity named after Ronnie James DIO, and not that great renditions of women in polygon form all add up to a fun ride for those with the sense of humor and stomach for this game.

There are some who will be turned off by the juvenile approach to many of the gameâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s themes but how can someone not find a character that sounds like Haley Mills (circa Disney Studios era) getting sexually satisfied with a teddy bear that has donned a strap on after having a hussy make over then becoming a roaring dyke and sleeping with her roommate where Larry tries to make it a threesome after saying he was gay funny?

For all the faults that can be found in this game, Leisure Suit Larry: Mangum Cum Laude is a fun game. The laughs keep on coming and coming while Larry keeps on screwing up or finding out that the hot mime he just had an oral encounter with has more in common with a large bratwurst than a tasty glazed donut. Fans of the series and those who enjoy dumb humor are going to want to check this game out.

Appeal: 5.0

ORIGINALITY
Magnum Cum Laude does not break any new ground nor does it have the most innovative play scheme ever. That being said the strange sperm conversation mini-game was interesting at times, especially when you choose some of the intentional bad responses to hear Larry Lovage talk about his grandfather not being discussed by the family thanks to certain extracurricular activities or that Bâ┚¬â”žÂ¢andre the Giant is Larryâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s bestest pal despite being dead for 10 years.

Again, not the most innovative game overall, but when you play this game you should already have an idea just what you are getting into.

Originality: 3.0

ADDICITIVENESS:
Laugh after laugh kept on flowing and the game was engaging enough to keep me up in the wee hours of the morning just to get to the next major Larry Lovage event. The humor keeps this game going and makes you want to finish all the terrible mini-games, go through every last side quest, examine every little nook and cranny of the game just to hear all the sparkling dialogue, and find every last ode to the Leisure Suit Larry franchise.

Addictiveness: 7.0


MISCELLANEOUS:
The small details of finding things from Larry Lafferâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s past (Boysulay Art Museum, Leftyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Too, the HOZ sorority past memberâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s picture) to the insane ramblings of a one night stand that is a tad too enamored of the Larmiester, there are enough little touches to help this one out in keeping your attention for the ride (though the ride is a tad shortâ┚¬Â¦ kind of like the Larrys.)

Miscellaneous: 6.0

RATINGS:

Story: 6/10
Graphics: 4.5/10
Sound: 7/10
Controls: 4/10
Balance: 3/10
Replay Ability: 2/10
Appeal: 5/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10